The Perfect Sacrifice
Oftentimes, we fail to realize how great God's love is. We easily question His justice, when we get deprived of what we consider good things in life. Such is our attitude towards God, without realizing that He has already provided us with the best gift in life – something that we are not capable of accomplishing for ourselves. He gave us righteousness, or purification from sin, through the sacrifice of His Only Son.
Our God, the God of Abraham, created the universe by His Word. When Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, fell from His righteousness, they began to live in sin, away from His will. As sin deserved nothing less than death, God made a way so that men would be brought back to His grace. He chose people to spread His Word, but our ancestors refused to listen. Their hardened hearts caused them to perish in the great flood and only Noah's family survived. But Noah's descendants stayed away from the righteousness of God and even worshipped false gods. Only Abraham pleased Him, not because of Abraham's righteousness but because of his faith. Abraham was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob.
He chose the nation of Israel or the descendants of Jacob to be the light for all nations. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt toward the promised land, God gave them a covenant in Mount Sinai, containing promises, laws and commandments. The tribe of Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, was specifically tasked to become priests or intercessors between God and the people of Israel. In behalf of the Israelites, the Levites offered sacrifices, in the form of goats or calves, to God, so that the sins of the people would be cleansed. For many centuries, this was how the Israelites or Jews asked forgiveness from God. Because only the Jews received the covenant, all other nations lived away from God.
Even the Jews, however, did not please God because of their constant sins. Such constant sins made Israel a subject of God's discipline. Worse, Israel declined God's new covenant, which is salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Two thousand years ago, the Son of God was born as a man in Bethlehem. So sinful have men become that only a perfect sacrifice could cleanse us of our sins. No man could be a perfect sacrifice because all of us were sinners. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became the perfect sacrifice to redeem us from death.
When John the Baptist asked Jesus Christ why He had to humble Himself as a man, our Lord responded: "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). If Jesus Christ is the Son of God, why did He have to die? Two apostles asked the same question on their way to Emmaus, days after Jesus died near Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-35). They were hoping that Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel until He died. Jesus, who had recently resurrected from the dead, confronted them and said: "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory" (Luke 24:26)?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became a man, to save us from the sin that entered the world through Adam. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12).
"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:18-19).
Why did Jesus have to be a man? The Son of God became a man to taste death for everyone, destroy the power of death, become a merciful and faithful high priest, and atone man's sins. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:9).
"Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy Him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
"For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason, He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when he was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:16-18).
Why did Jesus Christ have to die for our sins? "The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22) God told Moses: "For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." (Leviticus 17:11) The blood of Christ, the perfect sacrifice, had to be shed for our atonement. Jesus Christ "did not enter by means of the blood of the goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:12)
"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake" (1 Peter 1:18-20).
Unlike the Levite priests who had to offer sacrifices again and again, Jesus Christ is the only high priest who is "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens". Paul, the first Christian missionary, explained that "unlike other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever." (Hebrews 7:26-28)
It is God's will that Jesus Christ die on the cross for the redemption of mankind from sin. Talking to the Father, Jesus Christ said: "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them (although the law required them to be made). Here I am, I have come to do Your will." (Hebrews 10:8-9) Paul said that Jesus Christ came to set aside the first covenant to establish the second. "Christ is the mediator of the new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." (Hebrews 9:15)
And by the new covenant, "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10) With Jesus Christ's sacrifice, God the Father said: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:34) Paul explained that once our sins are forgiven, "there is no longer any sacrifice for sin." (Hebrews 10:18) Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead and His ascension to Heaven to sit at the right hand of His Father completed the redemption of those who believe in His name. He is our priest in Heaven, reminding His father of His sacrifice that bought our salvation. "Because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." (Hebrews 7:24-25)
This is the good news of salvation for all. All we need to do is accept His grace of salvation by believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who offered His human body as a sacrifice for us and that God raised Him from the dead. "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins." (Colossians 2:13)
Accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior means abandoning our sinful nature and allowing the Holy Spirit to prevail upon our will, so that we can live according to God's plan for us. Paul explains what it means by accepting Jesus Christ with the following verse: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
Bible verses were quoted from the New International Version (NIV).